Rep. Giffords and the Lone Wolf Terrorist

Today has been a dark and tragic day in Arizona. At least six people are dead, a Congresswoman is in critical condition after being shot through the head, and everybody has been terrified by a rare act of violence. Our hearts and thoughts go out to Representative Giffords and her family.

But meanwhile, the blogosphere is full of theories and speculation. Some people jumped immediately to it being a Tea Party assassin, others said it was a random maniac, or an illegal immigrant, or even a Left Wing false flag operation. In the intervening hours, more details have emerged about the shooter, and given this recent post about lone wolf terrorism, I'd give it my shot.

The shooter has been identified as Jared Loughner, a 22 year old white male from Tuscon, AZ. We know only a little about his background; he's in community college, and he was refused military service. Like other lone wolf terrorists, he has left a manifesto, in the form of a Youtube Channel.

Loughner's videos are brief text slideshows accompanied by ambient guitar music (I am reminded of God is an Astronaut.) The picture that emerges is one of a disturbed young man, a waking dreamer in a society of illiterates. Loughner is obsessed with mind control, and the power of grammar, currency, and religion over the masses. Here's what he has to say about terrorism and the Constitution.


If I define terrorist then a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.

I define terrorist.

Thus, a terrorist is a person who employs terror or terrorism, especially as a political weapon.

If you call me a terrorist then the argument to call me terrorist is Ad hominem.

You call me a terrorist

Thus, the argument to call me a terrorist is Ad hominem.

You don't have to accept the federalist laws.

Nonetheless, read the United States of America's Constitution to apprehend all of the current treasonous laws.

You're literate, listener?

In conclusion, reading the second United States Constitution, I can't trust the current government because of the ratifications: The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.

The only other video on the page is a seven minute video where a man in a black robe ritualistically burns the American flag to the metal anthem “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor.” His list of favorite books are “Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Wizard Of OZ, Aesop Fables, The Odyssey, Alice Adventures Into Wonderland, Fahrenheit 451, Peter Pan, To Kill A Mockingbird, We The Living, Phantom Toll Booth, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, Pulp,Through The Looking Glass, The Communist Manifesto, Siddhartha, The Old Man And The Sea, Gulliver's Travels, Mein Kampf, The Republic, and Meno. “

I'm not a psychiatrist, but Loughner 's reasoning is stereotypically schizophrenic and paranoid. He denies external reality, rails against the structure of society, and is obsessed with some Tea Party favorites, like the gold standard and the 10th Amendment. His brief stint in the military matches the lone wolf profile. He is quite clearly disturbed and dangerous, but is he a terrorist, or merely a confused young man?

The distinguishing point between the terrorist and the typical American school or workplace shooter is the political nature of the terrorists action. Shooters (and we've seen a lot) target the entity that they believe has wrong them the most, a familiar location like a school or workplace. These are desperate people who feel the need to make one final statement.

Loughner railed against Pima Community College, describing it as a scam, a torture facility full of mind control victim. He alludes to some incident where he was prevented from speaking. Why then did he target Representative Giffords, and not his school?

We can't fully know, this act stemmed from a place of deep nihilism. Loughner was in many ways a bomb waiting to explode, but I doubt the inflammatory climate he was in helped. Giffords was most likely a target of opportunity, the most important one he could reach.

Giffords was on Sarah Palin's “TakeBackThe20.com”, a website which marked her district with a target symbol, and demanded that voters remove them (and has since been scrubbed from the internet). Sarah Palin said about healthcare, “"The crossfire is intense, so penetrate through enemy territory by bombing through the press, and use your strong weapons -- your Big Guns -- to drive to the hole. Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win." We of course remember Sharron Angle's “Second Amendment Remedies.”

At this point, a clear line cannot be draw between specific statement by Palin, Beck, et al and the shooting, but one thing is obvious. Jared Loughner choose to make his ultimate statement on a political target, not a personal one. The heated rhetoric and weapons related metaphors increase the risk that some number of disturbed people in America will decide that their life is ruled by political oppression, not personal failure. The right wing bears responsibility for this incident, and I hope it prompts their pundits to step back from the edge of madness they currently walk.

EDIT: When I wrote this, much of the information about Loughner was speculative. I've corrected his name, and military status. In an early draft, I also lay more of the blame on the right wing. I was wrong, acted in haste, and went against my own argument. I've left the original conclusion up as reminded to myself. Apologies to those offended.


  1. I personally am going to shy away from placing responsibility on the far-right media and politicians at this time. The shooter has, almost certainly, an identifiable psychiatric condition that impairs his judgment. The fact that the shooter's youtube videos make no coherent statements suggests to me that his attachment to any political stance was merely an afterthought. Having failed to assimilate into the military, or the local community college, his last ditch effort was to affiliate with the nearest radical ideology.

    The political fringe seems often to use metaphors of violence, possibly because their positions are far enough from the mainstream that reasonable discourse is completely ineffective. The key point is that sane individual recognize these as metaphors. Palin may have been using guns as a metaphor because 2nd amendment rights is a major, major obsession of a lot of her followers.

    This event indicates that the far-right rhetoric has become extreme enough to be confused with a call to violent action by a person suffering from isolation and delusions. It may highlight the lack of civility in our current political discourse, but it does not mean that the right is guilty of speech to incite an assasination.

    Now, this doesn't mean that its not *possible* that the rhetoric was tuned, intentionally, to incite would be lone-wolfs toward a violent act. But, I fail to see how this could possibly be strategically useful to anyone except .. well, except perhaps the owners television news shows that make bank on highly politicized trauma such as this.

  2. Anonymous8.1.11

    Why do you conclude the "right wing" is responsible for this? (who ever you specifically mean by "right wing" is something only you know).

    Why should people who conclude one political ideology is preferable to another be held responsible for the acts of the emotionally disturbed?

    If you want to advocate for ideology that you apparently would describe as "left wing" you are free to do so. But could you use reason and logic to critique your opponents? To subtly attack those who have reached conclusions different than you by attributing the atrocious acts of the emotionally disturbed to them is not only disrespectful to the victims but also to the concept of rationale discourse.

    I don't agree with Sarah Palin on nearly every issue, but she is not responsible for the acts of this man. If you really want to contribute to society, you should explain rationally why she is wrong and you or the politicians you support are correct.

  3. Actually, we recently tried to do the very thing anonymous mentions in his or her last paragraph, and could not. Is it possible that Palin avoids making factual statements as a rule, so that its harder to use logic against her ?

    Anyway, anonymous is correct, I think (but perhaps a bit blunt). There are numerous unsolved challenges with applying logic to reason with extreme groups, no matter what their beliefs, its all extremely difficult, especially when not all parties are negotiating in good faith, so to speak ?

  4. .. The shooting event caused a sad-not-funny-John-Stewart's-the-daily-show, in much the same tone as the delay on the zadroga bill.

    That a major fake news comedy show host felt it necessary to break character to provide the nation perspective that some of its leaders seem to lack is disheartening.